First Impression | 2018 Yamaha YZ65

By and large, Japanese mini bike technology has stagnated for decades and not since the introduction of the revamped Kawasaki KX85 in 2014 has there been any significant attention paid to the scaled-down machines. KTM and Husqvarna, meanwhile, have continued to develop their mini machines and have gained a massive market share in all levels of off-road motorcycling. Austrian dominance in the 65 division is widespread, as the outdated Kawasaki KX65 was the only option aside from the American-made Cobra CX65. It's been over three decades since Yamaha has produced its YZ60, and to say that the all-new 2018 Yamaha YZ65 was long overdue and highly anticipated would be an understatement. Designed from the ground up as a completely new machine; the YZ65 bridges the gap between the beloved PW50 and the popular YZ85 and allows consumers the potential to stay on Yamahas throughout their motorcycling lifespan.

All New

At the heart of the little blue bike is a 65 cc two-stroke powerplant that's equipped with a six-speed transmission, a digital ignition, and reed-valve induction. Fuel is fed to the cylinder via a Keihin PWK28 carburetor, and to ensure the broadest powerband possible, the YPVS power valve system ensures maximum torque at all RPM. While the YZ65 isn't the only machine in the 65 class that's equipped with a powervalve, its system is sensitive to centrifugal force inside the engine, and opens and closes the variable exhaust port according to engine rpm speed. The KTM 65 SX system, for comparison's sake, is opened pneumatically by exhaust gasses as they exit the cylinder. Though lighter in overall weight, that type of system is far more sensitive to exhaust system changes and cylinder modifications, and must be fine-tuned to maintain its performance.

The steel frame is completely new and has no likeness of the old '83 YZ60; geometry is aggressive and modern, and the subframe is a removable aluminum unit, just like those found on the full-sized YZ and YZF lineups. Most impressive about the chassis, however, is the premium Kayaba suspension that graces both ends of the YZ65. The 36 mm KYB spring fork and rear shock feature full compression and rebound adjustability; features that are sometimes limited to save costs on minis. Other nice touches are the big-bike style chain adjusters found at the back of the bike's aluminum swingarm…no snail or bolt-style adjusters here!

Finishing details on the YZ65 include an oversized tapered aluminum handlebar, large hydraulic disc brakes on both the front and rear, and Maxxis Maxxcross SI soft- to intermediate-terrain tires. Visually, the Yamaha YZ65 is stunning, with big-bike looks proportionately scaled down to size.

On the Track

A modest stab at the kickstarter is all it takes to fire the YZ65 up, and even the smallest rider should be able to bring the bike to life with ease. Our adult observations of the machine after ripping it around the pits were that it is definitely designed to pack a punch and is geared towards the racing segment of the 65 class. In contrast to the other Japanese entry in the 65 class that's far from competitive and suited best for entry level riders, the Yamaha is built to win. Power is as broad as you could ever expect it to be from a small-bore two-stroke engine, and the YZ65 revs high and hard in each gear before reaching the point where more noise than power is being generated.

Our test rider is relatively new to the 65 class and has less than a year on a manual-shift mini under his belt, but he took to the YZ65 with ease and looked quite at home on it after a few shakedown laps. Watching him zip around the track, it was clear that he was comfortable with the powerband from the get-go, and after his first moto he commented that the engine felt powerful, but easy to control. Our test bike was jetted ideally as delivered, as the bike never loaded up and consistently blew thin, light blue smoke out of its silencer.

The suspension was impressive for our little guy in the "bumpy areas" of the track as he said that he felt right at home everywhere on the track, but especially when landing from jumps. Watching him negotiate the minimal braking and acceleration chop that formed at the track during the press launch of the new machine, the YZ65 appeared to be well-balanced and appropriately sprung for a rider of his weight, which is definitely on the lighter side of the target weight range. Watching older, larger, and faster riders in action, the bike exhibited the same level, controlled ride. Obviously, having a full spectrum of compression and rebound adjustments on the fork and shock allow the machine to be fine-tuned for a broad range of riders.

The fit and finish of the Yamaha YZ65 is impressive and it's obvious that it is cut from the same cloth as the rest of the YZ and YZF lineup. Durability is oftentimes a weak point with scaled-down machines, but the 65 appears to be every bit as sturdy as you'd hope a $4600 machine would be.

Because it is labeled a 2018 machine, the new Yamaha YZ65 is eligible for this summer's AMA Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn's and more, and they are already on Yamaha dealership floors across the country. We're excited to see how the new player in the game fares, but we're expecting to see quite a few BluCru riders holding number-one plates in the coming months…


Rider Impression

Skyler Casella

Age: 9

Height/Weight: 4'1"/50 lbs.

Ability: Novice

I made the switch to a 65 from a 50 last year, and my normal bike is a KTM 65SX. I was very excited to test the all-new Yamaha YZ65 and see how it compares to my personal bike, and it was really cool to see how a different bike felt. I'm on the smaller side, so my dad had to cut the seat down on my bike so that I could touch the ground. When I first got on the YZ65 it was a little scary because I couldn't touch the ground, but it was awesome once I got going. The YZ65 power was very strong and it was easy to ride the bike without it getting out of control. The power is great but it is also easy to use because it always feels like it has good hit. Sometimes my bike bogs in tight corners but the Yamaha was easy to keep going. Overall it is very fast! It is also easy to start.

I like the way the YZ65 goes around the track. I turns very well and it was easy to chose where I wanted to go because the bike does exactly what you want it to. The suspension felt a little bumpy for me at first, but I think that was because I was used to my own bike with the lower seat. After some laps to get used to the bike, it felt great and I really liked the way it landed from jumps.

The thing I like most about the bike is the way it looks! The YZ65 looks like the big YZs that Ryan Villopoto and Cooper Webb ride. Now that's cool.

2018 Yamaha YZ65

Price: $4599

Engine Type: 65cc liquid-cooled two-stroke; reed-valve inducted

Bore x Stroke: 43.5 mm x 43.6 mm

Compression Ratio: 8.1 – 9.1:1

Fuel Delivery: Keihin PWK28 carburetor

Transmission: Six-speed; multiplate wet clutch

Final Drive: 420 chain

Suspension/front: 36 mm Kayaba coil spring, adjustable compression and rebound damping; 8.5" travel

Suspension/rear: Single shock, adjustable compression and rebound damping; 10.6" travel

Front brake: 198 mm hydraulic disc

Rear brake: 190 mm hydraulic disc

Front tire: 60/100-14 Maxxis Maxxcross SI

Rear tire: 80/100-12 Maxxis Maxxcross SI

Seat height: 29.5"

Wheelbase: 45"

Ground clearance: 10.5"

Fuel Capacity: .9 gal.

Dry Weight: 128 lbs.